Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and new-to-you releases. Pure Pop Radio plays the greatest melodic pop in the universe 24 hours a day.
The hits, the future hits, and all of the hits in-between are spinning with glee on Pure Pop Radio. Come join the party and take a listen (click on our player above or below). And dig, if you will, some of our recent adds to our ever-growing playlist, such as the following choice nuggets:
A Pure Pop Radio favorite for all time, Bill DeMain has released a pair of dreamy ballads destined for the Nashville popster’s next album.
“Parastoo” is a gorgeous love song, a minute and 42 seconds long and adorned with only Bill’s sensitive vocal, acoustic guitar and Pat Sansone’s mellotron. A love story about planting the seeds of a relationship, the lyrics prove that to adore takes commitment: “It only takes a smile to fall in love,” Bill sings, “But it takes a lifetime to prove that it’s true.”
“Film Noir,” co-written by Bill and Danny Wilson’s Gary Clark, will take you to a smoky jazz club where the torch of love burns and the star of your film noir turns the tables on you and makes her escape (“She played you like a piano, her ticket out of town / And that little taste of sugar / Turned bitter by the day”). Cello, violin, tenor sax, bass, drums and piano provide the soundtrack to this emotional tale of almost and could-have-been.
Both of these destined-to-be-classic songs are now playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio.
Timmy Sean has long been a fixture here on Pure Pop Radio. Remember when we covered his mammoth Songs of the Week project back in 2015? “My Jaded Love” is a new version of a song we first heard back in early 2016; it’s going to appear on Timmy’s forthcoming album, A Tale from the Other Side.
“My Jaded Love” is a mid-tempo pop-rocker with a catchy chorus and a strong vocal, both nothing less than Timmy Sean trademarks. Hear for yourself below (and on our air), and make a note to get A Tale from the Other Side when it becomes available this fall.
Ed Woltil has been in the spotlight before at Pure Pop Radio–for his hall-of-fame-worthy album Paper Boats, A Reverie in Thirteen Acts (one of our Favorite Records of the Year for 2014), and as songwriter and member of St. Petersburg, Florida band, the Ditchflowers. Here comes the Woltil spotlight again: One in My Tree is destined to be another feather in Ed’s cap. Ed’s gift for catchy melodies is as keen as ever; witness the should-be-hit-bound poppy opener, the upbeat “When We Fall in Love”; the pretty waltz, “Living in Between the Lines”; the breezy, Americanapopper “Caroline Wren,” and the rocking “A Matter of Time” (a genuine, good old toe-tapper), all of which are now playing in rotation on our air.
Check out “Make Me” from Ed Woltil’sOne in My Tree, and pre-order at Bandcamp below:
Lisa Mychols and Super 8, whose gloriously wonderful, self-titled album is a must-get for all of you must-getters who pride themselves on populating their collections with must-get, long-playing pearls of pop wisdom, offer a track not on their must-get album as a bonus for buying said album. They call this track their “secret” track, and it’s a doozy, an imaginative reworking of the Korgis’ beloved 1980 hit, “Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime,” that sounds as though the band is dangling from a hazy hippie high wire with a warm, summer’s day campfire directly below them. Which makes it a must-get, so get on over to Lisa Mychols and Super 8’s Bandcamp page and… get it.
Where to Get It (Get the album and the secret bonus track):Bandcamp
Chris Church’s blazing collection of richly rendered pop-rockers, Backwards Compatible, is exploding here, there and everywhere. Catch the rocking “Begin Again,” slathered with a hefty yard’s worth of poppy background vocals, in rotation right here on Pure Pop Radio.
Melodic pop’s top poppers are putting smiles on the faces of melodic pop fans all around the world. Why, it’s a melange of melody, harmony, and just plain good music swirling around us…and it feels good!
Here at Pure Pop Radio, we’re spinning a rotation chock full of the latest music released by not only melodic pop’s top stars, but by multitalented up-and-comers and here-to-entertain-you singers and instrumentalists for whom melody and harmony are key components of the thing that makes everything just plain alright.
Bill Lloyd, who’s been a fixture of the Pure Pop Radio airwaves since his hall-of-fame album Set to Pop set new standards for pop and roll more than 25 years ago, has a new collection of top tunes out called Don’t Kill the Messenger, and we’re playing some of them in heavy rotation. Tune in to hear “You Got Me,” “Etch-a-Sketch,” “Kake’n’8It,” and “The Kiss of the Summer Wind.” Keep an ear out, also, for other tracks from across Bill’s catchy catalog, including one of our all-time favorites, “The Best Record Ever Made,” and “Show and Tell the World,” from the lovely recording Bill made with pop journeyman Jamie Hoover, Paparazzi.
And while your ears are out there hunting for the sweet, catchy sounds of pop, keep them zeroed in on songs from Dana Countryman’s latest long-player, Come Into My Studio. We’re playing three songs from this album that is, without question, another smash from the west coast master of melody. Listen for “Willow Tree,” “Ecstasy,” and “Take a Little Chance,” all playing in rotation, as you would expect.
Alongside the latest top pop from Bill Lloyd and Dana Countryman, we’re also bringing you some truly fine musical specimens we’ve plucked from deep in the Pure Pop Radio archives; you’ll hear from David Myhr, Cupid’s Carnival, astroPuppies, Bill DeMain, the Well Wishers, Nobby Clark and Rab Howat, Two Sheds Jackson, Fancey, the Honeydogs, and other like-minded musical magicians.
Listen, why don’t you. Right now, in fact, would be a good time. Simply click on the player below for instant melodic satisfaction! And don’t forget to save the player to your desktop, mobile phone and tablet.
See you on the radio!
Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio is the premier website covering the melodic pop scene with in-depth reviews of new and reissued recordings, and a wide variety of features.
Pure Pop Radio brings the greatest melodic pop music in the universe to your waiting ears, 24 hours a day.
Every year around this time, I sit down to start work on this feature and I marvel at the sheer number of wonderful albums released during the previous 12 months. And then, I’m off and running.
The process of reviewing contenders for this list results in a survey of the absolute top of the pops that came out during the last 12 months. There were a lot of great indie records released in 2017. These are the ones that I came back to the most.
There are 21 entries in this year’s feature–18 albums and three singles, all followed by links you can click on to purchase them. They are presented in no particular order. As in years past, I do not rank them; I have trouble deciding which album should sit at number five versus number six and anyway, if I did rank them, the placements would likely vary depending on the day. So they are presented as a group of highly listenable creations, all of which I recommend without reservation, every day of the week.
And so, without further ado, here is Pure Pop Radio’s Favorite Records of the Year: Stars of 2017. The choices are mine; the pleasure, listening to them, is all yours.
Bill DeMain | Transatlantic Romantic Built around the Nashville, Tennessee artist’s piano and lovely vocals, and co-producer Jim Hoke’s tasteful string and horn arrangements, Transatlantic Romantic is a delicious, wonderfully arranged song cycle stacked high with sweet, beautifully written and performed classic-sounding songs in the style of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, and Harpers Bizarre. Case in point: “Lemon Yellow,” a lovely waltz blessed by Van Dyke Parks-meets-George Martin strings, Randy Newman-esque piano, and the charming story about the love of a car that came “all the way from Germany.” There is charm to spare in this gem of an album, a warm, beating heart full of joy. Purchase
Bill Lloyd | It’s Happening Now It’s Happening Now bathes listeners in the warm glow of tremendous acoustic-based songs evoking mid-’60s folk-pop aesthetics. Lovely melodies, nimble acoustic guitar playing, and emotive vocals combine for an affective listening experience from a contemporary music master. A couple of heartfelt numbers are among the best songs that Lloyd has written thus far: the gorgeous, beautifully orchestrated and tenderly sung “Happiness,” about really and truly and completely giving in to love (“Happiness/As much of a choice as a chance/You simply decide that you’ll dance/This time…/Then maybe you’ll finally be blessed with/Happiness”), and “Let Me In Your Life Again,” a gentle upbeat plea for rekindling a romance (“Back inside your grace/Warm in your embrace/Only face to face/Do I feel anything so true”). It’s Happening Now is Bill Lloyd’s finest hour, by far. Purchase
The Bye Bye Blackbirds | Take Out the Poison
Bradley Skaught’s Oakland, California-based outfit’s best offering yet presents 11 finely wrought, emotionally charged songs in an album stocked full of classic tracks. Variety is the key: “Let Your Hair Fall Down,” an out-and-out pop workout, complete with horns and sounding as if it were plucked from the J. Geils playbook, sits comfortably alongside such numbers as the mid-tempo, string-laden country ballad, “Duet,” which features a lovely vocal by Lindsay Paige Garfield, who co-wrote the song with Skaught. A career-defining release. Purchase
Karla Kane | King’s Daughters Home for Incurables The Corner Laughers’ Karla Kane steps into the spotlight with this enchanting solo set bringing together modern folk and soft pop sensibilities. Kane’s lovely vocals and melodies power these heartfelt songs, such as the gorgeous ballad “Under the Oak in May” and the amazing, percussive piano marvel “All Aboard,” which sports a traveling, train-inspired beat and builds to a seductive close. A true marvel of an album. Purchase
Fun of the Pier | 14:42
Nottingham, England’s Fun of the Pier paints their debut album in bright, happy folk-pop hues for a pleasing listening experience. Songs such as “Past/Future” and “(In My) Time” are drenched in lovely, clever and catchy melodies. Beautiful ballads “Lost and Lazy” and “I Live this Life (She Said)” hearken to classic artists such as Claire Hamill and Kate Rusby (and there is a correlation worth noting). 14:42 is a wonderful, delightful collection of songs, expertly performed, with Helen Luker’s alluring vocals particularly noteworthy. Purchase
Kelley Ryan | Telescope
astroPuppees veteran Ryan’s long player is a master class effort of melodic proportions, stocked deep with luscious, carefully crafted compositions. Telescope’s enticing mix of balladry and radio-friendly should-be-top-of-the-pops creations includes the catchy, mid-tempo closer “Real Gone Girl,” with its enticing melody and lovely, memorable and magical harmonies; and the gentle, so pretty “Pulling for Romeo,” from which this album gets its title (“You’re at the end of your rope/Don’t need a telescope…”). How does this album fit into the current melodic pop landscape? It fits like a glove. Purchase
Dave Caruso | Buddha Pesto Manifesto
Dave Caruso’s new songs, which form the whole of this career-defining new album, play with the duality of the times in our lives when decisions must be made. Easy or hard to fathom, these decisions are the fabric of our lives, set within this album to glide along atop durable melodies that beat to the heart of the matter. The album’s closer is a particular highlight: “I Get to Make You Laugh,” delivered emotionally by way of Caruso’s tender vocal and keyboard, finds the narrator self-realizing that another man has the woman’s commitment at the same time that the narrator has her soul. Coming three years after the bravura performances captured within Caruso’s breakout album Cardboard Vegas Roundabout,Buddha Pesto Manifesto sets a high bar for future musical endeavors. Purchase
Cindy Lee Berryhill | The Adventurist
A deeply felt, melodic, invigorating and emotional song cycle looking back on and celebrating Berryhill’s time with Paul Williams, the creator of Crawdaddy, the first, authoritative rock publication of record, The Adventurist shows the future unfolding for Berryhill one day at a time with each new step forward informed by steps already taken. The album’s heart-filled center is the heartbreakingly honest, emotionally melodic “Somebody’s Angel” (“The first time I kissed somebody new/I cried when I thought about you/And all the good times we had and the living we’d been through,” Berryhill sings. “Now I’m here for you forever or long as I am able/I gotta be somebody’s angel.”) The Adventurist, a remarkable, many-hued cycle of life, will grab hold of your heart as it summons your deepest emotions to the surface and affects you to your core. (Omnivore) Purchase
Cait Brennan | Third
A miraculous, astounding, and audacious album pairing Brennan, a one-of-a-kind artist, and multi-instrumentalist and ace producer Fernando Perdomo, Third is surely one of those fortified-in-heaven happenings that make life on earth a wonderful thing. Recorded at Memphis, Tennessee’s legendary Ardent Studios, fortified with Big Star heart, Third is a roller coaster ride through all of life’s travails, an emotional wake up call for all humans negotiating the pathways of their existence. The album’s highlight? “Catiebots Don’t Cry,” a gut-wrenching you-love-her-I-love-her-what-are-we-gonna-do-about-it slow-to-mid-tempo burner, a skewed kind of aromatic love song featuring Brennan’s multi-tracked, thing-of-beauty three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks. This Third is astonishing, bold, and seemingly effortless. (Omnivore) Purchase
The Blood Rush Hour | Who Folds First The followup to 2014’s astounding And Then… The Unthinkable Happened is just as miraculous and entirely satisfying, encompassing a variety of song styles, all finely wrought melodic microcosms and performed with perfection. Who Folds First brings the hits and a few happy surprises, like the Manhattan Transfer-like, a cappella opening that introduces the Todd Rundgren-esque “No More Excuses,” and “The Space that We Have Made,” about getting to the heart of the matter, a triumphant Steely Dan-ish number sung by Pure Pop Radio favorite Christian Phillips, who devised the three-dimensional vocal arrangements with Hour leader Robert DeStefano. Joyous and quite special. Purchase
Chris Price | Stop Talking
Stop talking? Hardly. The aim is for you to listen to these wonderful songs, recorded by Price between 2013 and 2016, and tell your friends about them, thereby creating a groundswell of support for this exceptional artist. From the catchy Paul McCartney-meets-Stephen Bishop-meets-Rupert Holmes “One of Them” to the tender, Nilsson-esque “You and Me (And Everyone Else),” co-written by Price and The New Pornographers’ Joe Seiders, and the toe-tapping, orchestrated charmer “Once Was True,” which puts a lovely chord progression and melodic structure center stage, Stop Talking is a classy keeper. (Omnivore) Purchase
The Weeklings | Live at Daryl’s House Club Vol. 1
Ten Beatles classics, inhabited and driven with red-hot enthusiasm by this ever-passionate New Jersey foursome, blow like missiles out of your speakers for a fun time that, yeah, yeah, yeah, cannot help but be had by all. Top tracks? Take your pick: “I Saw Her Standing There” (energy to spare and take-that drumming), “Nowhere Man” (tight, three-dimensional harmonies), or “Helter Skelter,” (a pulse-pounding showcase for the band and Lefty’s in-your-face vocal). Or, really, any of the other tracks on offer. Short of being transported to an alternate universe where the actual Beatles are playing at a club in your neighborhood, this is as real as this fab thing gets. (See below for more Weeklings fun.) Purchase
Coke Belda | Coke Belda 3 (Gs): A Tribute to the Bee Gees
The long-awaited followup to 2013’s Coke Belda I and 2015’s Nummer Zwei breathes new life into the art of musical homage. This alluring celebration of the charms of the Brothers Gibb, a virtual explosion of Bee Gees joy, hits the mark at every turn. Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, save for a welcome guest appearance from Gretchen’s Wheel’s Lindsay Murray, Coke delivers smile after smile. “Claustrophobia,” arranged and played as a sweet Merseybeat romp, will book you on a virtual time travel trip back to the 1960s. The album closer, a beautiful take on “Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away),” a top 10 Billboard chart hit for Andy Gibb in 1978, written by Bee Gee Barry and keyboardist Blue Weaver, is a welcome, perhaps unexpected nugget. Follow with glee. (Bonus Belda joy follows below.) Purchase from Kool Kat (CD), Purchase from Futureman (Digital)
Scott Gagner | Pins and Needles A way-more-than-worthy followup to 2014’s five-star Rise and Shine,Pins and Needles elevates Scott Gagner’s art to six stars, at least. Boasting 10 literate, affecting pop songs and a lovely, emotional reading of “America the Beautiful,” the album is one of the great pleasures of 2017. Top numbers include the bluesy “Heart Attack” (“It seems I was a victim of love/Not heart disease”), the classic pop sounds of “The Ghost of Me and You,” and the aforementioned “America the Beautiful.” Lovely through and through. Purchase
Robyn Gibson | Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Buoyant exercises in the art of homage, Bob of the Pops Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 find The Junipers’ multi-instrumentalist Robyn Gibson having a good old time putting his warm, wide-eyed spin on some of his favorite pop songs from across the decades. All across this lovingly essayed two-volume landscape, Gibson’s softhearted vocals and obvious love for the material cast a warm glow over every melody line and emotional keystone communicated. In Gibson’s hands, these classic constructs breathe new life into familiar musical landscapes. From Vol. 1, The Beatles’ “Nowhere Man” fairly drips with joy; the opening, harmony drenched a cappella couplet is sweetly delivered, and the song reveals itself as a modern-day folk song, every harmonic element glimmering with life and hope. Among the other top spins: The Hollies’ “Listen to Me” and the Who’s “I Can’t Reach You.” Vol. 2’s take on the Monkees’ “Girl that I Knew Somewhere” and Matthew Sweet’s “I’ve Been Waiting” are winners, as is “Bob’s” version of a well-known little group from Liverpool’s “There’s a Place.” Unmissable, and so much fun. Free Downloads
Scott Brookman | Smellicopter Two
Four years and seven months on from the mighty Smellicopter, Richmond, Virginia’s favorite son returns with this top-flight five-song sequel, a sterling collection of pop songs that should not only please fans but also draw in new Brookman connoisseurs. From the opening marriage of ’70s Todd Rundgren and late-’90s June and the Exit Wounds ambiance, “Consideration,” to “Old Bones Found,” a clever, catchy mix of pure pop styles, Smellicopter Two delivers the goods. Purchase
Dana Countryman | The Joy of Pop The fourth time’s the charm, although it certainly can be said that the previous three times have been equally charming; The Joy of Pop is nothing less than a joy, another in a growing line of wonderful retro-pop albums from a master of melody. With compatriots like Matt Tyson, Dana’s wife Tricia and Klaatu’s Dee Long in tow, you’re bound to have a rousing good time bathing in the glow of such gorgeous songs as “August Dream,” a Broadway-styled creation influenced, no doubt, by the work of Richard Carpenter, Burt Bacharach and Gilbert O’Sullivan; “Tell Me that You Love Me,” an early-1960s mid-tempo ballad dripping with Buddy Holly-isms; and “Can’t Stop Thinking ‘Bout You,” a jangly number graced with Dee Long’s beautiful guitar work. There is even a jolly holiday number, “It’s an Amazon.com Kind of Christmas,” that begs to be played year-round. Joy? There plenty to go around here. Purchase
Richard X. Heyman | Incognito
One-man-band Richard X.’s 12th album, no less than his best work by far, is powered by stellar playing, singing and songwriting that gets better with each passing year. Dazzling songs and equally dazzling performances greet you at every turn. In the pure popper “A Fool’s Errand,” the narrator tells the world that his love for his partner is solid and for the ages. “Her Garden Path” is a muscular track with a grandly attractive riff that chronicles a man’s escape from a woman’s web. And the horn-infused, soulful pop number “So What” finds Richard sounding as though he’s channeling the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere. All of Richard’s albums are fantastic listens, but if you’re new to Richard’s work and you wonder where you should start, Incognito is a great place to jump in. Purchase
Winterpills | “Colorblind”
Upon first hearing this Massachusetts band’s music and, in particular songwriter Philip Price’s top-flight, three-dimensional songs, I could do nothing except flip for joy. This single, not yet represented on an album, is a great example of what Winterpills does best, and that is envelop the listener with lovely melodies and hooks galore. Beyond that, this description from the group’s Bandcamp page sums the process up nicely: “‘Colorblind’ features an infectious wall-of-sound vocal hook, samples recorded into an iPhone in a DC parking lot, out-of-tune pianos colliding over a burned-out city, a fat R&B beat, all poured through the alchemy of producer Justin Pizzoferrato’s overdrive brain.” Add this song, and all of Winterpills’ glorious albums, to your collection today. Purchase
Coke Belda | “Operator (That’s Not the Way it Feels)”
Coke Belda, who is ably represented above in this year’s Favorite Records of the Year feature, released this past November this heartfelt reinvention of Jim Croce’s top 20 hit. “My lovely wife, Verónica, introduced me to Jim Croce many years ago,” says Coke on his Bandcamp page. “I was captivated by his tunes and voice and I always thought this song was a clear power-pop song disguised as an acoustic piece.” Playing all of the instruments and singing all of the vocals, Coke has introduced Croce’s perennial to new listeners, as well as listeners who grew up with the song when it was first released. Stellar work. Purchase
The Weeklings | “Paperback Writer”
New Jersey’s Fab Four reconvened in the studio during the last few months of 2017 to record and release a couple of jolly Christmas singles–“Revolution Wonderland,” a mash-up of the Beatles’ “Revolution” and the perennial Christmas classic “Winter Wonderland,” and a lively take on the original Fabs’ “Christmas Time is Here Again,” with dollops of “Flying” and “Baby You’re a Rich Man” skillfully sewn in. Last September, they released this, and here’s that word again, joyous slice of Weekling-ized fun, reviewed by me thusly: “Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack huddle together and Weekling-ize the number one 1966 Billboard chart Beatles smash with an in-your-face-and-your-ears-too injection of contemporary immediacy, tight-knit harmonies, a surprising and smile-inducing…break, rhythmic whirligigs, Lefty’s spot-on Paul McCartney-esque bass runs, and a daring dose of Monkees derring-do for a rip-roaring, must-play-it-again-and-again two minutes and 47 seconds-long eargasm.” Still sounds about right. Purchase
Pure Pop Radio’s signature shows, Alan Haber’s Pop Tunes Deejay Show, playing the latest and greatest melodic pop songs from today and across the decades, and Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation, the premiere Internet melodic pop talk show, air weekly on Pop that Goes Crunch Radio.
Listen to the Pop Tunes Deejay Show on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8 pm ET (two different shows every week); In Conversation airs every Wednesday night at 9 pm ET. Don’t miss a minute!
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Spins and Reviews | 06.29.17 By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
We’ve added hundreds of new and new-to-you songs and artists to our playlist; here are reviews of two of our favorite new albums from two of our favorite melodic pop artists…
A Richard X. Heyman Spectacular: Incognito (Turn-Up, 2017) and seven songs left off the album and now playing in rotation on an exclusive permission-granted basis
The music of Richard X. Heyman has been a steady presence during the 22-year history of Pure Pop Radio. I picked up on Richard’s wonderful songs just prior to the release of Cornerstone, his third album. Thanks to a suggestion from the Spongtones’ Jamie Hoover, I contacted Richard’s wife, Nancy, who began sending me cassettes of the work-in-progress. Nine albums later, Incognito arrives, Richard’s 12th long player, and his best work by far.
It is hard to fathom exactly what drives an artist to produce such good work so far into his career, other than the simple desire to create and the presence of a never-depleting well of inspiration and innate talent. It is evident at every step that Incognito’s 14 songs are proof positive that Richard’s mission has been and continues to be fulfilled.
Dazzling songs and equally dazzling performances greet you at every turn. In the pure popper “A Fool’s Errand,” the narrator tells the world that his love for his partner is solid and for the ages. “Her Garden Path” is a muscular track with a grandly attractive riff that chronicles a man’s escape from a woman’s web. And the horn-infused, soulful pop number, “So What,” finds Richard sounding as though he’s channeling the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere.
Richard’s playing is stellar. Incognito is stellar, a monumental achievement from an artist who never disappoints. Richard recorded seven additional songs for this album that wound up on the cutting room floor. Each one is a pearl in a sea full of them (particularly “Advantage Girl,” an speedy, upbeat pop song with expressive guitar lines, Richard’s trademark three-dimensional harmonies, and those incredible drums). While not for sale, they are playing in rotation on our air on an exclusive permission-granted basis, so thanks to Richard and Nancy for being so gracious.
Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: From Incognito: “Incognito,” “A Fool’s Errand,” “And Then,” “Gleam,” “So What,” “In Our Best Interest,” “Her Garden Path,” “Lift,” “Miss Shenandoah Martin,” “All You Can Do,” “Terry Two Timer,” and “These Troubled Times” Plus: Seven Incognito outtakes: “Advantage Girl,” “And Now It’s All This,” “Follow Me Down,” “If I Didn’t Know Her Better,” “No One Left to Blame,” “Pocket Full of Holes,” and “The Golden Coast” Where to Get Incognito: Richard X. Heyman’s website
Bill DeMain | Transatlantic Romantic (2017)
As one-half of the transcendent duo Swan Dive and the artist behind 2012’s wonderfully melodic EP, Extended Stay, Bill DeMain is, like Richard X. Heyman, a familiar presence on our airwaves. Bill’s new album, a delicious, wonderfully arranged song cycle stacked high with sweet, beautifully written and performed classic-sounding songs in the style of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks, and Harpers Bizarre, is as perfect a record as could be offered to earthlings in 2017.
Built around Bill’s piano and lovely vocals, and co-producer Jim Hoke’s tasteful string and horn arrangements, which ought to get some kind of arranger’s award (someone get on that right away), these songs will absolutely, positively stay with you for all eternity. I’ve written about a few of the songs that’s we’ve been playing on the air exclusively for awhile (read about “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy” here) but there are others worthy of more than a mere mention.
“Lemon Yellow” is a lovely waltz blessed by Van Dyke Parks-meets-George Martin strings, Randy Newman-esque piano, and a charming story about the love of a car that came “all the way from Germany.” The life of a boy growing up with the world snuggled up around him takes place in and around that lemon yellow automobile. Witness: true love, near yet far (“I was too shy to kiss her”); driving through the summer sun with a cassette of Genesis’s Selling England by the Pound album playing; going off to college and missing the four wheels every day; and pledging affection despite some really rather tiny imperfections (“If she was a little quirky/Water pooled beneath the seat/Wash me on a window dirty/And the dimples on fenders.”) You, as do I, will wish you had written this gem.
The cinematic midtempo ballad “Brewster, Illinois (April 3rd, 1952)” is a sweet musical snapshot of the day-to-day goings-on in a small town as the calendar pages turn and days turn into nights and nights turn back into days. The song was sparked when Bill was looking through newspapers from where he grew up in New Jersey. Charmed by the everyday events chronicled, he was moved to write this number, which builds to a bridge from which a measure of sunny-day town square-like bursts of ebullience emerge. It’s a masterful creation.
Honestly, this is the kind of album that hardly anyone makes anymore, which is a shame. In these often trying days, we search valiantly for some sunlight, for some melodies to hum to ourselves to cheer ourselves up. Bill DeMain’s brilliant, heartfelt album (with nary a guitar present), bursting softly with charm to spare, ought to do the trick.
Now playing on Pure Pop Radio: “Begin,” “Leroy Boy,” “Honey Bear,” “Lemon Yellow,” “Brewster, Illinois (April 3rd, 1952),” “Boffo and Beans,” “Dori,” “Alaska,” “Wendy” (Beach Boys cover), and “The Golden Age” (The entire album) Where to Get It: Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org to order a CD for $12.00 (includes postage)
Spins and Reviews | 05.02.17 By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
A Pure Pop Radio Exclusive:
Bill DeMain | “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy” (from the forthcoming album Transatlantic Romantic, 2017)
Last December, I had the great pleasure of adding to the Pure Pop Radio playlist a gorgeous cover of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” essayed in grand style by Swan Dive’s Bill DeMain. This glorious cover, stacked rich with harmonies atop a muscular, baroque base, will appear on Bill’s forthcoming, much-anticipated solo album, Transatlantic Romantic. Piano-based magic lies ahead.
Also appearing on Transatlantic Romantic are two songs that Bill has allowed me to play first on the radio: “Honey Bear” and “Leroy Boy.” Color all of us lucky. “Honey Bear” is a lovely meeting of gold-standard influence, blending a distinct Randy Newman/Harry Nilsson vibe with Van Dyke Parks ambiance, pedal steel guitar, played by Jim Hoke, horns, and a sprinkling of Beach Boys’ style percussion. Written with Larry Goldings, this has standard written all over it. It’s beautiful.
“Leroy Boy” takes its cue from Todd Rundgren’s iconic “We Gotta Get You a Woman” (Bill had originally thought to write a sequel to the song, but opted instead to wax poetic from personal experience). Rundgren fans will dig this easy-going number, which draws on the sound of Philadelphia soul; fans of Carole King will be similarly entranced. There’s a bit of a Steely Dan vibe in here, as well. There’s also a beautiful string arrangement topping the bill. You really couldn’t ask for anything more. Or delicious.
“Leroy boy, where you been all this time?” Bill sings as “Leroy Boy” gets out of the starting gate. Well, the answer is it’s Bill DeMain we’re talking about, and he’s been fashioning what promises to be one of the best albums of the year. Certainly, with “Leroy Boy” and “Honey Bear,” and the wonderful cover of “Wendy,” Bill is off to a great start.
By Alan Haber – Pure Pop Radio
(Originally posted 01.03.17)
2016 was a terrific year for melodic pop music from both new and heritage artists, perhaps the best in recent memory. My list of 28 Favorite Records of the Year from 27 artists–The Stars of 2016–is presented below in random order.
It has long been my view that ranking entries on best-of-the-year lists is an impossible task, at least for me. If I made such a list on Monday, would the number nine entry still be in that slot on Tuesday? Perhaps not. Sometimes, I fear, agonizing over a particular placement would be akin to splitting hairs and not particularly a worthwhile enterprise. So, I’ll go with I like these a lot instead.
Here are my Favorite Records of the Year–The Stars of 2016–in no specific order. All are more than worthy of your time, and all should be added to your core collection of the greatest melodic pop music in the universe.
And now, on with the show…
The Stars of 2016
Bob Lind | Magellan Was Wrong Pop bard Bob Lind’s latest is a typically heartfelt collection of songs that deliver his always magical one-two punch: emotional lyrics and beautiful melodies, brought to life with stellar arrangements and production, much of it supplied in grand fashion on this album by the Spongetones’ Jamie Hoover. Gorgeous soundscapes abound, such as the romantic, catchy “From the Road,” awash with poppy background harmonies from Hoover and perceptive, picturesque lyrics from Lind (“In moments others call mundane/My soul is warming by your flame/Turning just like a sailor to the harbor/And I will carry back my songs and tales/Of calms and gales/And sing and tell them all/To you”), and Lind’s emotional cover of Tom Paxton’s “Bottle of Wine.”
The Legal Matters | Conrad With this album, the Legal Matters have set a new standard for vocal harmonies in melodic pop music. Andy Reed, Chris Richards, and Keith Klingensmith are the players, and their human voices are their instruments. The songs are sweetly realized, from the opener “Anything,” not the first track on this album tipping its hat to the much-loved Beach Boys vocal vibe, to the upbeat, single-worthy “Short Term Memory,” which tips its drumsticks to Ringo Starr in a delightful fill and puts forth some top-notch electric guitar playing. To listen to this album is a thrilling experience.
The Weeklings | Studio 2 The beat-betrothed, Beatlesque foursome from New Jersey, steeped in the Fab tradition and nom de plumed in the spirit of all that started off holy in Liverpool’s Cavern Club a fair number of years ago, follows up their self-titled long player, affectionately known as Monophonic, with a sterling 12-song set composed of eight superlative originals and four rare John Lennon and Paul McCartney songs not given away to other artists. Recording in Abbey Road’s hallowed Studio 2, where the Beatles made their astounding magic, Glen Burtnik, Bob Burger, John Merjave and Joe Bellia, aka Lefty, Zeek, Rocky and Smokestack, respectively, make considerable Merseyside hay with delightfully brisk and catchy songs steeped in the effervescent spirit of the Fab Four. A splendid time, to be sure.
Caper Clowns | The Buca Bus Delicious pure pop from Odense, Denmark delights with a dozen beautifully written and performed pearls. Lovely melodies and vocal harmonies are always present, particularly on instant classics such as the should-be-hit-bound earworm “A Tale of Romance and Magnetic Trains” and the gorgeous ballad “Lizard Heart.” Debut of the year? Most certainly.
Kenny Herbert | Forever and Beyond A gorgeous, romantic song cycle inspired by Caroline, the love of his life, Forever and Beyond is Herbert’s melodically-charged survey of the power of true love. The 14 songs on offer, encompassing 1930s, 1950s and modern melodic pop vibes, are tremendously affecting, beautifully drawn snapshots of a happy existence. The pretty “Queensferry Girl” and the catchy, McCartney-esque pop song “It’s All Good” shine among a rich collection of gems.
Nick Piunti | Trust Your Instincts Guitars, bass, drums, powerful vocals, and a whole lot of moxie power the pop on Nick’s latest, high-energy collection. These songs make heads turn and hearts embrace its many charms. “One Hit Wonder” is the big, splashy, pure pop hit here, a clear winner on an album full of winners.
Gleeson | Curse My Lucky Stars Austin, Texas band Gleeson have made their White Album, a sparkling collection of songs varied in approach and tone that makes a case for melodic pop being the genre of the moment. Encompassing beautiful balladry, art-pop, rock and retro charm, Curse My Lucky Stars is a marvel.
Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones | Little Windows A true, modern classic bathed in retro charm, Little Windows’ rewards are many. There is a decidedly romantic notion at play here, one that slips in and out of hand holding echoes of the Everly Brothers at Cadence, Roy Orbison, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Buck Owens and a thousand other country-pop artists and their golden recordings. These lovely, heartfelt songs, brought to life by two of pop music’s finest vocalists, make up an album that is like a bright lighthouse shining across the sea, drawing you in.
Ray Paul | Whimsicality Thirty-six years after the release of Ray Paul and RPM’s album Go Time, the artist is once again regaling listeners with enticing tales set to everyone’s favorite power pop beat. A delicious mix of originals and well-chosen covers, such as the Grass Roots’ “Temptation Eyes” and Paul McCartney’s “Oh Woman, Oh Why,” meets wonderfully-realized originals like the dynamic “A Fool Without Your Love” and McCartney-esque “Jeannie.” With Ray’s gorgeous melodies and strong vocals out front, this is a treat from first note to last.
Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club | Benches A monumentally towering testament to melodic and harmonic excellence, Benches is a delight from start to finish. There is nothing quite like Kate Stephenson’s take on melodic pop music, just as there is nothing like her soaring imagination, and her ability to express all manner of emotion and make the listener feel. Working in concert with musical partner John Steel, Kate delivers wondrous songs (and three-dimensional vocal harmony stacks) like “Somebody Called Me an Onion,” a smile-inducing, upbeat, energetic pop number with faux-reggae shadings about peeling back the layers to reveal the full, human package of emotion; and the a cappella wonder “Silent Letter,” a tune about inner beauty and the sanctity of thought that doesn’t always have to be laid bare. For those of you keeping score, this is the second Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club album to wear our Favorite Records of the Year mantle. As it should be.
The Nines | Alejandro’s Visions Rolling and then filtering the influence of the music of writers such as George Gershwin and Rodgers and Hart into a mix peppered with the harmony styles of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshmen and even doo-wop, and then topping the resulting flow with his love of artists such as the Electric Light Orchestra and XTC, Steve Eggers has delivered a harmony- and melody-drenched soundtrack to an imaginary film, somewhat of a sequel to the last Nines album, Night Surfer and the Cassette Kids. Standout tracks include the beautiful, bittersweet, old-fashioned “When Our Love Was in Bloom,” stacked deep with gorgeous harmonies and an irresistible melody; and the early rock and roll/pop hybrid “Operator (Coming Home to You),” which sports a meaty, catchy, percussive piano riff, opens with an aural allusion to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and lays out a delectable Jeff Lynne-ish bridge that will make you smile. Alejandro’s Visions is Eggers’ best and most assured work yet, an immensely satisfying collection that belongs in every melodic pop music fan’s collection.
Seth Swirsky | Circles and Squares Proving that a creative, heartfelt approach to making music will yield magic almost every time, Seth Swirsky has crafted a collection of songs that draws on all of his strengths, and perhaps incorporates a couple of new ones. Moreover, these songs reveal the truth about all of our lives, right from the first track, “Shine,” his statement of purpose, the one that sets the stage for what comes next. And what comes next is winner after winner, such as the lovely confessional and autobiographical “I Don’t Have Anything (If I Don’t Have You),” in which the narrator allows that life means nothing at all without the proverbial “one”: “I’ve got some baseballs/That are pretty rare/Got a swimming pool/And a fast car/But I don’t care/’Cause I don’t have anything if I don’t have you…I’ve got gold records/Hanging on my wall/But without your love/Baby you can have ’em all…” This 16 song collection is the latest expression of craft from one of pop music’s most important artists.
Lucy Wainwright Roche and Suzzy Roche | Mud and Apples A sparkling duo release from Suzzy Roche and her daughter, Lucy Wainwright Roche. Warm harmonies, clever songwriting and the inclusion of beautifully-sung covers such as Paul Simon’s “Bleecker Street” and the Cascades’ “Rhythm of the Rain” push this 11 track masterpiece into hall-of-fame territory. Roches fans will be charmed, and so will everyone else. Surely one of this year’s top expressions of musical joy.
The Monkees | Good Times! Good Times! is a classic-sounding Monkees album that happens to have been released 50 years after Monkeemania began. A mix of recordings based on sessions produced during the group’s heyday and new songs written by top-flight, current songwriters of note, this is a fun listen from start to finish. A shining example of how good this album is: The perky, catchy “You Bring the Summer,” written by XTC’s Andy Partridge, fulfilling a childhood dream. A great album.
Mimi Betinis | Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1 Pezband’s Betinis scores with two sterling releases in 2016 that are really two sides of a rather entertaining coin, so they both rate a spot in this Stars of 2016 feature. Music Sounds is a vivid, quite alive offering of melodic treasures. Its songs are wonderfully realized pop confections that hit the hooky bullseye, like “She Wants You,” which surreptitiously recalls the famed intro to the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” in the intro, and “Summer Love,” a warm love letter and look back to a seasonal romance (that, perhaps unknowingly, taps the sound of 10cc member Eric Stewart’s guitar playing in the solo).
Basement Tapes Vol. 1 collects tracks that Mimi has been working on over the years, like “Ray of Light,” a melodic sweetness that sounds like an Andy Partridge outtake off of XTC’s Nonsuch album, and simply lovely covers (Paul McCartney’s song for Mary Hopkin, “Goodbye,” and the Hudson Brothers’ “So You Are a Star” are glorious). Saying that some heritage artists are only getting better as time passes by can sound like rather an empty assertion, but my, how that phrase does indeed fit snug as a bug, listening to Music Sounds and Basement Tapes Vol. 1.
Winterpills | Love Songs The numbers on Winterpills’ seventh album get under your skin; they become you in some celestial kind of way. The vocals of songwriter Philip Price and his wife, guitarist and keyboard player Flora Reed, are the collective glue that holds these proceedings together–the glue that gives them life. Consider “Wanderer White,” a rolling, rhythmic song about a fall from grace, in which Philip takes the lower notes and Flora the higher ones, and “Freeze Your Light,” which starts off as if in a church with a slight, ghostly choral singsong and becomes a folk-into-pop number with a delectable chorus buoyed by the same low-and-high vocals. The poppy bopper and should-be-hit-bound “Celia Johnson” turns the tables with Philip initially taking the high vocal part and Flora following closely. A trumpet and coronet serenade add to the song’s beauty; a lovely, echoed piano part comes in for a beautiful coda. A real treat.
Butch Young | Mercury Man Butch Young’s miraculous, hall-of-fame-worthy album is a modern classic by way of its dazzling array of 1970s-styled instant classic songs, peppered with a mix of Paul McCartney and Harry Nilsson-esque magic. Every one of these Los Angeles-based artist’s songs is a clear winner, like the title track, “Persephone,” “One Foot In,” and “The Fools of May.” Awesome.
The Dowling Poole | One Hyde ParkOne Hyde Park, the sterling follow-up to the Dowling Poole’s Bleak Strategies, is a virtual tour de force and, if that weren’t enough, it’s an album influenced by sounds from across the pop landscape that doesn’t actually sound like its influences. Witness “Vox Pops,” which incorporates a very Partridge Family-sounding keyboard line and a very Brian May-sounding guitar solo; “Hope and Glory,” an upbeat pop song; and “Bring Back the Glow,” a smooth, rolling ’70s number. Joy from across the pond.
Chris Murphy with Michael Carpenter | “Real Love” This absolutely gorgeous ballad recasting of John Lennon’s song is one of this year’s major triumphs in melodic pop music. For this rendition, the tempo has been slowed, allowing Murphy to lovingly communicate the depth of the emotional lyric. Murphy’s vocal may well be the best vocal performance of the year. His ability to hold a melody line’s final note in such an artful way, to sustain its resonance and maximize its impact on the listener, is something to behold. Recorded with precision and heart by Carpenter on the occasion of singer Kylie Whitney’s wedding (Whitney also sang background vocals), this new version of this wonderful song is proof positive that covers can reveal new layers of emotion not previously brought to the surface.
Emitt Rhodes | Rainbow Ends Forty-three years after his third album, Farewell to Paradise, was released, this new collection surfaces to critical and listener acclaim, and rightly so. Here are songs that feature all of the Rhodes hallmarks: beautiful, catchy melodies; inventive chord changes; and those velvety, smooth, sturdy and emotive vocals. Perhaps this is no more evident than on the emotional ballad “I Can’t Tell My Heart.” Somewhat reminiscent of Mirror‘s “Love Will Stone You,” this is a showcase for Emitt’s committed, vocal delivery; the gorgeous melody and emotional lyrics combine to sketch the breakup of a relationship and a considered plea for the other party to embrace the option to heal. A wonderful surprise and an instant classic. Welcome back to a truly special artist.
Daisy House | Western Man Doug Hammond and his daughter Tatiana’s album for the ages features golden harmonies and great songs that will melt your heart all the way through. The heavenly duo channels the Byrds in the uptempo “She Comes Runnin’ Back” and “Twenty-One,” offers up a catchy, playful vibe with the singalong number “Willow,” and delivers a strong, emotive ballad with the orchestrated tune, “Western Man.” Best news of all: a new album is soon to be released. Happy new year, indeed. Where to Get It:Bandcamp
Brain Circus | Brain Circus This smashing collection of impossible-to-resist songs performed in grand style by ace songwriter and keyboard wizard Brian Curtis, late of the much-loved band the Oohs, serves up 13 numbers in all, performed entirely by this transplanted Virginian. The majestic, heartfelt love song “Finally Found the One,” a musical sculpture formed with smiles and tears and a whole lot of heart, is but one highlight. You’ll detect essence of the Beach Boys, Jellyfish and Queen, among other classic touchstones, but this is all Curtis and don’t you forget it.
The Flat Five | It’s a World of Love and Hope This Chicago-based band of harmony-hounds deserves supergroup status, thanks to the members’ affiliation with artists such as Neko Case, NRBQ and the New Pornographers. Welcome a deliciously wondrous assortment of luscious pop dressed in a variety of comfortable musical clothing that runs the gamut from the Manhattan Transfer-meets-hep cat vibe of the delightful “Buglight” to the Paul McCartney retro-sway of “I Could Fall in Love with You” and the pretty back porch balladry of the Roches-like “Bottom Buck.” Pretty special all the way through.
Bent Van Looy | Pyjama Days Based in Paris, France and a member of the band Das Pop, Bent Van Looy’s 2016 release is a lovely, pure poppy collection of sweet-sounding catchy melodies sung with assured style, like the upbeat pop number “My Escape,” beautifully arranged with little Beach Boys vocal flourishes weaved in; “Mr. Fletcher’s Song,” a melodic mid-tempo ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Randy Newman album, and the sumptuous title track, a three-minute genius construct, nicely orchestrated and adorned with a smile-inducing whistle. Pop on.
The Junipers | Red Bouquet Fair This charming collection from the Leicester, United Kingdom band recalls the sweet sunshine pop sound of the 1960s and 1970s in such lovely songs as “Summer Queen” and “Like a Merry-Go-Round.” Red Bouquet Fair is no less than the audio equivalent of smiling at your good fortune on a warm day in the park while sipping cool lemonade (the effect is equally transcendent wherever else you may be). The vocals are enchanting and the instrumentation is perfectly played. Lovely.
Tommy and the Rockets | Beer and Fun and Rock ‘n’ Roll This ace project, featuring 10 pop-rockers, co-written, except for one, by super criminal defense attorney Michael Chaney and Thomas “Tommy” Stubgaard, who plays all of the guitars, bass, and provides handclaps, shake the house, as it were. Check out the catchy, Beach Boys-influenced sunshine anthem “Here Comes Summer,” and a couple of energetic Ramones nods, “Silly Teenage Love” and “You Want Me (But I Don’t Want You)”). Cheery, toe-tapping fun.
The Explorers Club | Together This collection of songs imbued with the spirit of the best of the Beach Boys, the Four Freshman, the Association and other time-honored practitioners of the art is one of the sweetest offerings of the year. Here are songs that are beautiful and beautifully sung, lovely and lovelier still, from Jason Brewer, Wyatt Funderburk, Paul Runyon, Kyle Polk and Mike Williamson. From the southern California harmony- and sun-soaked sound of “California’s Callin’ Ya” to the Four Freshmen-meets-“Graduation Day”-by-way-of-Les Paul ballad “Perfect Day,” Together invites listeners to bathe in the beauty of harmony-filled dreams.
Harmony-filled dreams… Ah, as ever, they feel so right. With 2016 now in our collective rearview mirror, it is time to look ahead into what is just around the corner. Your favorite artists, and those new to the melodic pop scene, are itching to get going…to release their latest creations, crafted with a mix of melody, harmony, and keen performance.
Already, I have heard a few upcoming albums that I predict will knock your socks off. Nick Bertling, who records under the name Bertling Noise Laboratories, has been making a name for himself with a few rather extraordinary platters; the Lab’s latest, releasing later this month, is a covers collection called, in a nod to the great Harry Nilsson, A Little Touch of Bertling in the Night. This is a sweet mélange of favorite songs from yesterday, filtered through today’s singular sensibilities. It is uniquely Bertling, and you’re going to love it.
Dana Countryman, of whom much has been said throughout these pages, all of it sweeping-me-off-my-feet good, is about to release in 10 days, through Australia’s Teensville Records, his passion project, a tribute to the 1960s girl group and Brill Building sounds that continue to bring joy to ears around the world. Dana Countryman’s Girlville!: New Songs in the Style of Yesterday’s Hits will transport you back to a much simpler time, perhaps, when melody and joy were king. Lisa Mychols, Swan Dive’s Molly Felder, and Lisa Jenio are just three of the vocalists that help to bring Dana’s vision to life on an album that you will hug tightly. Look for Dana to appear on Pure Pop Radio: In Conversation soon to talk about this landmark release.
Bill DeMain, whose solo music and treasured albums with Molly Felder as Swan Dive will always have a place here on Pure Pop Radio, has a new record that will soon be released. After hearing and playing on the air a bonus track from Beans, a lovely arrangement of the Beach Boys’ “Wendy,” we hope the release date comes very soon.
The Word is Love
“Spread the word,” the Beatles sang back in 1965. They were talking about love, not melodic pop music written and recorded in the 2010s, but they might as well have been looking forward, as should we all.
In 2017, we look forward to bringing you more of the greatest melodic pop music from the ’60s to today. We’re on the job 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. A click of any of the Listen links that follow will connect you with our stream. Spread the word about Pure Pop Radio, if you will and, if you haven’t already, please click the Follow button on the homepage of this very website to ensure that you will be notified by email every time we make a post.
Thanks for reading our list of our Favorite Records of the Year: The Stars of 2016. Add them all to your collection; your ears will thank you, as will I.
Bill DeMain | Extended Stay | 2014 | A review by Alan Haber
“Maybe home is nothing more than where you hang your hat,” Bill DeMain sings in the cautiously cheery “Looking for a Place to Live,” the first of six sweetly-realized songs on his brilliant 2014 EP, Extended Stay. Autobiographical in nature and a hopeful prayer in practice, it’s about the search for a place to call home.
After a flood and a subsequent fire that destroyed his belongings and his home, and an extended period of living a temporary existence while his condo was being rebuilt, DeMain set about writing some songs. Out of the 18 he wound up recording, he chose a half-dozen to release–songs that share the same delicate approach to songcraft that has marked his work with Swan Dive, and his writing for and with other artists such as Marshall Crenshaw and Kim Richey. These songs also share a series of commonalities, such as looking for purpose, for love, and for sincerity, even while not having all of the answers.
These character- and situation-based songs live in a storied world shaped and charmed by the sounds of Harry Nilsson, Randy Newman, Paul Simon and Van Dyke Parks. But they do more than merely pay homage; they color outside of the lines and fashion their own heartbeats. Working economically, DeMain’s pen sketches out the necessary detail and leaves the listener to connect the dots.
DeMain’s deft wordplay works in tandem with his gorgeous melodies and clever musical constructs to deliver meaningful sketches that speak to listeners who may (or may not) share similar experience. “Looking for a Place to Live,” painting with a soft, acoustic brush in the manner of the sound of Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends album, expresses the trauma and sadness that accompany finding a place to live. “Lost the roof above my head,” DeMain sings, “and all the stars were laughing/Turned around and watched our bed/Float away downstream/But it was just a dream…” Perhaps home is a state of mind that four walls can never really define.
The tender, piano-based and Nilsson-esque “In Your Letter” examines the art of communication and getting a meaning across by way of old-fashioned pluck. “Everything is lower case and cute in your letter,” DeMain sings. The letter is a litany of events, of experiences, put down on paper with a pen and determined expression. But what do the words, all told, mean? “Now I guess I’ll read between the lines in your letter, in your letter/What is it I’m hoping that I’ll find in your letter, in your letter…”
The sleepy wisdom of “Common Love Song” allows that words may give away too much or be unable to give away enough. Sometimes, finding the right words is a fool’s errand. “But all I have to give to you is/A common phrase that’s only used/And I guess for now that that will have to be enough.” The subject of the astounding “Raggedy Man” is a regular guy without much means who can provide an alternate pot of gold: “But if you want an ear to chew the fat/A hand with folding laundry at the laundromat/The occasional rabbit pulled from a hat/I’ll give you that in seconds flat.”
Helping Bill to realize his vision for these songs are a couple of familiar names: his Swan Dive singing partner, Molly Felder, who provides backing vocals and hand claps; songwriter and producer Brad Jones, who mixed this record; singer-songwriter David Mead; and Pat Buchanan, who co-wrote with DeMain most of the songs on Buchanan’s 1999 record with his band, Idle Jets.
As perfect a creation as any collection of songs bidding for your precious time, Extended Stay leaves only one question unanswered: When will we hear the rest of the songs in the well?
We’ve added to our playlist…again! Our aim is true and this time around, we’ve hit the jackpot: Lots of new artists and songs are now newly playing in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. Here is what we’ve introduced to the greatest mix of melodic pop music on Internet radio:
The Kennedys | West Pete and Maura Kennedy have come up with what we believe to be their best work yet. As we said in our review of this outstanding album, “West is a journey taken along purposeful roads; it is a journey worth taking again and again.” (If you missed Alan’s review, click here.) We’ve added 11 songs from West: the title track, “Elegy,” “Sisters of the Road,” “Signs,” “Jubilee Time,” “Locket,” “Southern Jumbo,” “Travel Day Blues,” “The Queen of Hollywood High,” “Perfect Love,” and “Good, Better, Best.” You should add West to your music library today. File under Perfection.
Stereo Tiger | Two Weeks It’s always thrilling to witness a band coming out of the gate with great songs. Picture us thrilled. Stereo Tiger’s Two Weeks makes a bid for best-of-the-year honors with this outstanding album. Lovers of seventies pop and gorgeous melodies will find much to savor here. We’ve added seven songs to our playlist: “Magic Balloon,” “Perfect World,” “Open Up Your Eyes,” “All These Years,” “Philly Girl,” “Did You Ever Love Me,” and “Push the Pencil.” Simply outstanding. There’s this to savor in the album’s credits: “Recorded in 10 Days. Mixed in 2 Days. Mastered in 1 Day.” To which we’d add “Loved in seconds.”
Bill DeMain | Extended Stay Of course, everyone, including you, knows Bill’s work as one-half of the great duo Swan Dive. But did you know that last year he released a masterful six-song EP called Extended Stay? Well, you do now. These pure pop gems are masterpieces of melody that will put a big smile on your face. From the lovely “Honeylove” to the Randy Newman-as-Harry Nilsson slice of joy, “In Your Letter” and the all-Nilsson-esque, clever love song, “Raggedy Man,” this is a hall-of-fame worthy recording. Bill’s sweet voice makes these songs come alive–each one is a joyous celebration of the purest pop. Your music collection is quite simply not complete without this one.
Hot Knives | Hot Knives Another gem from Got Kinda Lost records (we added songs from their Promise album last week), this collection of single tracks and previously-unreleased material from the seventies is another great find. A mix of pop and rock, Hot Knives features terrific harmonies reminiscent of the Association, the Mamas and the Papas and Jefferson Airplane (yes, you read that correctly). Great melodies, too. We’re playing four songs in rotation: “Sooner or Later,” “Lovin’ You,” “I Hear the Wind Blow,” and “Winter’s Come.” Great stuff.
Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders | “Another Wasted Day” We’re always up for a new slice of melodic wonder from Daniel Wylie. Now billed as Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders, the band has delivered another great tune in “Another Wasted Day.” Jangly and catchy, it’s from the forthcoming album, Chrome Cassettes. We can’t wait.
Dana Countryman | “Every Kiss Reminds Me of You” It has become regular practice around these parts to add a new or new-to-you song from one of our most favorite pop practitioners every time we post one of these station updates. Another new song from the forthcoming album Pop3! Welcome to my Time Warp!, this retro, hooky and genuinely wonderful song sounds like an outtake from the 5cc years of 10cc, a very good thing! Featuring guest turns from Dee Long (Klaatu), who plays electric guitar, and Pure Pop Radio fave Matt Tyson, who sings on the fade, this is another keeper from the one of our favorite wizards of wonder. Now playing in rotation.
Red Caravan | Sleepless Night Red Caravan, aka Pete and John Carr, are making some cool sounds down under. The first fruits of their recording labors, “Sleepless Night” and “If I Return,” are electrically charged and pretty, acoustic melodic wonders, respectively. An album is on the near horizon. We await its debut. Meanwhile, here are two great songs now playing in rotation.
Strangely Alright | “Come On” The latest release from Regan Lane and company is a propulsive pop song with a great, catchy melody and an in-your-face vocal. “Come On” pushes our buttons, most assuredly.
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That’s it for today. We love bringing you new songs and artists to savor! More new adds to the playlist coming soon. See you on the radio!
We’ve added more than 300 songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist in the past week and a half. Can we hear you all take a deep breath, let it out and shout “Wow!” That’s right: More than 300 songs have been added to the playlist, and we’re not done yet! Since a week ago Monday, we’ve been spotlighting some of the artists and songs that now call Pure Pop Radio their radio home. We’re itchin’ to tell you about some more goodies that are currently spinning in rotation on our air, so let’s get crackin’!
Marti Jones – You’re Not the Bossa Me. We enjoy a bit of bossa nova every now and then, but we admit we don’t know a whole lot about it. We’re eager to learn, though, so we zipped on over to Wikipedia, where we found out that bossa nova is a “lyrical fusion of samba and jazz” that dates back to the 1950’s and 1960’s. Marti Jones, her husband Don Dixon, their friend and artist in her own right Kelley Ryan, along with instrumentalist and writer Paul Cebar and percussionist Jim Brock combined their considerable talents to produce a dozen poppy bossa nova gems. We think you’ll fall instantly in love with them. The songs, written by Ryan, Dixon, Bill DeMain, Cebar and others, are brought to life with Jones’s magical voice. Jones has never sounded better. Produced by Ryan and Dixon, this is a slam dunk for a place on this year’s best-of lists. It’s pop music for discerning listeners, which, of course, means you and you and you, too. We love these songs so much that we’ve added them all to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. Some of our favorites: the beautiful “Orphan on the Beach ;” Heart and Bone,” a terrific pop song; and “A Man from the Past,” a great light pop tune. We think you’ll dig them all.
Ed Woltil – Paper Boats, A Reverie in Thirteen Acts. Ed Woltil, of course, is a member of the fine band the Ditchflowers. Ed’s solo album, a masterful collection of carefully considered and expertly delivered deeply-felt songs, is one of those records that stays with you after a single listen. Ed has done all of the heaviest lifting here: he wrote, performed, mixed and did some of the recording work along with Steve Connelly and Brian Merrill (also a Ditchflower). He also designed the lovely packaging which, in this day and age of instant downloads, grants him eternal sainthood. But it’s the music that matters most of all, and if you’re looking for great music, you’ve come to the right place. We are so in love with this record that we added the whole thing to the Pure Pop Radio playlist: “Algebra,” “Random Access Memory,” “Hiding in Plain Sight,” “If Somebody Loved Me,” “Someone Else’s Life,” “Illinois Sunset,” “The One and Only Anderson,” “Open,” “The Shortest Distance (Between Two Hearts),” “One in a Row,” “Foul Weather Friends,” “Boys,” and “Dance With Me One More Time.” A hall-of-fame-worthy release if ever there was one.
Billy J. Kramer – I Won the Fight. Old pro Billy J. Kramer, round about 50 years on from scoring on the charts with songs from John Lennon and Paul McCartney, is still in the music game, and on the basis of this wonderful new album, he should stay in the ring and keep turning out hit after hit after hit. Make no mistake, though: Kramer has his eye on the contemporary prize. While there is a certain retro charm to these songs, they were cut for a contemporary audience, who should greet them with open ears. We loved I Won the Fight so much that we added six songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist, including “You Can’t Live on Memories,” Lennon-McCartney’s “I’m in Love”, “Sunsets of Santa Fe,” “You’re Right I’m Wrong,” and two versions of the very cool “To Liverpool With Love.”
Also added to the Pure Pop Radio playlist:
* Bubble Gum Orchestra – Beyond Time. We’re big fans of the Bubble Gum Orchestra. Adding songs from this latest BGO album was a no-brainer for us. If you’re new to BGO, and you’re a fan of the Electric Light Orchestra, you’ll be in heaven. The rest of you…well, you already know how good BGO is. We’d already added the first single, “ELO Forever”; we’ve added five more tunes, including “Return 2 4 Ever,” “Earth Below Me,” “I’m Coming Back Home,” “The World’s About to End,” and “Destination Home.” BGO is keeping the spirit and sound of ELO alive. Great job all around.
* The Paul and John – Inner Sunset. Musician and author Paul Myers has joined up with the Orange Peels’ John Moremen to produce an album full of great songs that you will want to revisit as soon as they’re done playing. We’ve added six songs to the Pure Pop Radio playlist: “Everything Comes Together,” “Hungry Little Monkey,” “Inner Sunset,” “Brickland,” “Can’t Be Too Careful,” and “Inner Sundown.”
* The Burgerheads – The Burgerheads. We go back through the mists of time to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s for some spectacularly catchy songs from a band that counted Klaatu’s Dee Long as guitarist, vocalist and keyboard player. We’re thrilled to add yet more music associated with Dee to the Pure Pop Radio playlist. We’ve got five great tunes now spinning in rotation: “On Her Own,” “New Summertime,” “Time,” “Jump and Dance,” and “Don’t Get Me Wrong.”
* Sunrise Highway – Windows. From this collection of strong, rock-flavored power pop and melodic pop tunes, we’ve added five addictive numbers: “Windows,” “Peter Pan,” “Foreverland,” “Big Mouth,” and “Sleeping City.” All melodic, full of deeply-felt hooks and widescreen vocal harmonies. Perfect for Pure Pop Radio and you.
That’s all for today, Pure Poppers. More to come tomorrow and Friday. Tune in to Pure Pop Radio all day and all of the night. We’re your original 24-hour-a-day melodic pop radio station on the Internet. Tune in by clicking on one of the handy listening links below.
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